Potential COVID-19 vaccine being developed at UH

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — As government leaders continue to try to find the balance between public health and opening the economy, experts are trying to produce COVID-19 vaccines.

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KHON2 is told that there are more than 200 vaccine candidates that are being developed, including efforts made right here in Hawaii.

Dr. Axel Lehrer has been developing vaccines for almost 20 years. He and his colleagues thought that they could help produce a vaccine against COVID-19 because they already have a platform, or blueprint, to work from.

Dr. Lehrer is a vaccinologist and an associate professor at the John A. Burns School of Medicine. He and his team have been working on a COVID-19 vaccine since February.

“We were in a fortunate place that we got a platform developed that’s very suitable for wide distribution,” said Dr. Lehrer.

Dr. Lehrer said that it’s important to have a vaccine that does not require refrigeration because if the vaccines are not properly stored, hundreds of doses could be lost.

“So what we’re trying to do is we use a platform where we can seal our proteins in and then thermal stabilize it, so that then we can actually dry it down to a powder and have it in a vial sitting on the shelf, rather than having to refrigerate or freeze the protein,” he said.

A major obstacle that vaccinologists face is that there is no successful coronaviurs vaccine out there.

“COVID is a virus out of the family of Coronaviruses,” said Dr Lehrer. “And so our biggest challenge is that we need to develop a vaccine that is not only safe to basically give you immunity, but it’s also safe when you subsequently become infected with the agent.”

Dr. Lehrer and his colleagues are currently in the pre-clinical development stage and are testing on mice. He believes that they can have a big impact on the duration of the pandemic.

“The whole world is waiting for a vaccine right now, and I believe that we here, in Hawaii, can contribute to that.”

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